At home with the Petries
I just love these two 1963 photographs by Earl Theisen, taken on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I grew up on reruns of the show, and it's fascinating to see the oh-so-familiar Petrie living room and bedroom from these unfamiliar angles. It's also wonderful to see the genuine warmth between Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore in the second photo - I think I heard somewhere that during the show's heyday, a significant portion of viewers thought the two were married in real life. That's how convincing the actors were.
Great Lakes Warriors
Oooh, this sounds good.
In the heart of America, on a deadly inland sea that has claimed as many as 6,000 vessels and 30,000 lives, a way of life exists that few ever witness. Men who breathe diesel fumes and watch every step they take on shifting decks. Men who battle the elements, wrestle with runaway vessels, fight fatigue and sometimes risk all in the struggle to make a living.
They are tugboat men, sailors in constant combat with the deadly storms and hazards of the Great Lakes - men who work against the clock, fighting thick ice forming in every direction under treacherous winter conditions - winds whip so fierce it could knock an entire crew off deck in the blink of an eye.
A new 8-part HISTORY series, GREAT LAKE WARRIORS, premiering Thursday, July 19, 10pm ET/9C, will dive into the lives of the tough crews who call 94,000 square miles of wild blue water home.
Kind of like a short-run, Midwest version of Deadliest Catch. Count me in.
Left: De Wolf Hopper, stage actor best known for popularizing "Casey at the Bat."
Right: His son, William Hopper (born De Wolf Hopper, Jr.), best known as Paul Drake on the Perry Mason TV series.
Being a longtime fan of both "Casey" and Perry Mason, learning this today was a very pleasant surprise.
Andrew Zimmern in Finland
Loved loved LOVED this episode of Bizarre Foods, as Andrew Zimmern visited Finland. Fortunately he minimized the time spent at frou-frou Helsinki restaurants in favor of traditional Finnish cuisine, including a wonderfully memorable visit to a remote island and its throwback denizens. Though I'm of Swedish descent, many of the traditional Finnish foods looked quite familiar to me. And plenty of it was fascinatingly unfamiliar, too, like seal meat. (Seals have apparently been off-limits to hunters there for decades, but occasionally are accidentally caught in fishermen's nets and have to be destroyed, thus providing a rare treat to the locals.) If you can find this episode online or on on-demand cable TV, I highly recommend it.
"The world needs bench warmers."
Probably my favorite TV soliloquy of all time, from the immortal Mr. Norm Peterson:
Diane: [After Thompkins steals Norm's proposal to the Board of Directors] Now now, Norman, you can't let this faze you, all right? You have to keep pushing. I know that this idea didn't succeed, but others will.
Norm: No no, Diane. Look, a few minutes ago, I almost made the biggest mistake of my professional life and it was because I was doing something that just wasn't me. I am not a go-getter, I've never been a go-getter, what's more, I don't even want to be a go-getter. I'm very happy right where I am. I'm so sick of all these people saying "Peterson, you gotta push", "You gotta get ahead", "You gotta make that goal". I don't even want to make the goal, Diane. I want to be a bench warmer. The world needs bench warmers. If there were no bench warmers, what would we have? Cold benches. A lot of cold benches and the world does not need that. You know something, I'm very happy with being an anonymous cog in this field of work.
Diane: Norman, I've never seen you so impassioned like this before.
Norm: That's because I believe in this, Diane. I'll tell you something else, Norm Peterson may be a motionless lump, but he's a damn good one.
Quote of the Day
"Gang wars, drug busts, police raids, paying off city officials, government-linked crime, and corruption of all types — these are all just part of the local sightseeing, although some of this is uncomfortably close to the truth. Apparently all of these criminal activities converge in the Loop, the most violent of all Chicago neighborhoods, thanks to its concentration of art museums, universities, and musical theater outlets."
- Michael Juliano, at The AV Club, on the new Fox drama The Chicago Code, which reportedly takes extensive artistic liberties with our fair city
The beloved TV actor Tom Bosley has passed away, at 83. Bosley was a boyhood friend of my dad, in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood during the 1930s and 1940s. Though they weren't particularly close (more like friend-of-friend), they still "ran around the neighborhood together" (my dad's words), and one night years ago when the family was watching "Happy Days" my dad suddenly recognized the name as someone he grew up with. A quick check of his old Lake View High School yearbook revealed a grainy photo of a smiling, amiable kid - picture Howard Cunningham, but skinny and thirty years younger. After that my dad always followed Bosley's career, from "Happy Days" to "Murder She Wrote" and "Father Dowling Mysteries", always finding amusement in his portrayal of the Catholic priest Father Dowling - Bosley was Jewish. Farewell, good man. If somehow there's a heaven, Abe is waiting for you.
This week in punk derivatives
Since I can't download or access streaming media at the office, I've accumulated these links throughout the week for Saturday morning listening/viewing, without realizing until just now that they're all punk-related:
+ An excerpt from the infamous hardcore punk episode of Quincy, in which the title character memorably and clumsily ponders "Why would you listen to music that makes you hate, when you can listen to music that makes you love?" (Via Boing Boing.)
Gender equality has really come a long way.
Sure, inequality still exists, but at least TV housewives no longer think "If I just buy Instant Folgers, my husband will love me again."
(Via Boing Boing.)
Puppy Bowl IV
My favorite part of Super Bowl Sunday isn't the game, the commercials or the halftime show, and certainly not the 14 hours of pregame coverage with its endless prognostications and dubious insights of self-proclaimed experts. Instead it's watching, with endless fascination, Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet. (We have two cats - I like dogs, but only other peoples' dogs.) This recent phenomenon has grown to the point that even the dowdy New York Times has taken notice. Reading that piece, I'm pleased to see that they've added a halftime show to the broadcast - with kittens. Perfect, utterly perfect.
"I am not a go-getter, I've never been a go-getter. What's more, I don't even want to be a go-getter. I'm very happy right where I am. I'm sick of all these people saying 'Peterson, you gotta push', 'You gotta get ahead', 'You gotta make that goal.' I don't even want to make the goal, Diane. I want to be a bench warmer. The world needs bench warmers. If there were no bench warmers, what would we have? Cold benches. A lot of cold benches and the world does not need that, Diane. I'm very happy with being an anonymous cog in this field of work...I'll tell you something else: Norm Peterson may be a motionless lump, but he's a damn good one."
- Norm Peterson
Happy Birthday, Bugs!
A happy 67th to my first anti-hero hero.
It was on this day in 1940 that Bugs Bunny made his debut in a short animated film called A Wild Hare. Bugs Bunny was designed to be the epitome of cool, modeled on Groucho Marx, with a carrot rather than a cigar. He is never fazed by what the world throws at him. He nonchalantly chews on his carrot in the face of all his enemies, speaking in a Brooklyn accent. A Wild Hare, which premiered on this day, told the story of Elmer Fudd's attempt to hunt rabbits, only to have Bugs Bunny thwart him at every turn. Bugs Bunny's first line in the cartoon, when he meets Elmer Fudd, is, "What's up, doc?" It was a phrase that one of the writers remembered people saying where he grew up in Texas. It got such a big laugh in the theaters that the writers decided to make it a catchphrase.
How this item made it into "The Writer's Almanac" is completely lost on me but, given my lifelong reverence for Mr. Bunny, I'm not at all complaining.
Oh Man Oh Man Oh Man!!!
An early Christmas present just arrived -- the single greatest cartoon ever made, Warner Brothers' "One Froggy Evening", courtesy of some brave copyright-defying citizen at YouTube. I've been looking for this one video for years, but haven't found it yet.
(Via Boing Boing, to whom I will now be forever grateful.)
Studs Terkel & Jon Stewart
A match made in heaven. What could possibly be better, other than successful impeachment hearings?
Biff!!! Bang! Pow!!
From the department of too-much-time-on-hands, two diligent gentlemen (John and Scott) have done screen captures of "batsigns" used during fight scenes on "Batman." I wish more of them were superimposed on the filmed images of the scenes, but assuming the Google translator is working correctly it appears that the show stopped doing so during its second season due to cost considerations.
(Thanks to Fred for the link.)
Farewell, Deputy Fife
Yet another staple of my childhood has passed. I must be getting to that age.
I'll give the good deputy the final word: "Nip it!"
I don't know why I suddenly thought of this, but the following is one of my favorite pieces of dialogue from one of our greatest cultural institutions.
Corgan: Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins.
Homer: Homer Simpson, smiling politely. You know, my kids think you're the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide.
Corgan: Well, we try to make a difference.
We Love You, Patty Bouvier!
All of us here in Tolerant America wish nothing but the best for you and your betrothed, and hope that you two are treated with the dignity and respect that all human beings deserve.
Jerry Orbach, former star of NBC's Law & Order as well as a noted Broadway performer, has passed away at age 69, of prostate cancer. I don't do many entertainment postings, but Orbach was one of my favorites. I've loved the show ever since day one, and Orbach played his 12-year role beautifully--gruff but compassionate, with a wry wit. I haven't seen very many episodes this season, when Dennis Franz replaced Orbach, but even as much as I like Franz I doubt if the show will ever really be the same.
Oh, goodness. This is not going to be an easy day. I woke up to the news that Ray Rayner had passed away, at the age of 84. Ray and "The Ray Rayner Show" were such a vital and cherished part of my childhood that I'm getting a bit choked up trying to think of the right words to say. Ray's smile, his humor, his warmth and his overall goodness made him seem like a close friend to me, a generally lonely child, even through the otherwise depersonalized medium of television. He sent me off to school every morning with a wave and a smile, until we'd see each other again the next day.
So many memories...the hideously colored jumpsuits, with notes paperclipped everywhere...his gloriously inept art projects which were made with three times as much glue as necessary, and which bore little or no resemblance to the prototype, as created by "Mrs. Chauncey"...the visits to the little cottage of Cuddly Dudley the dog, where the wonderfully innocent letters of kid viewers were respectfully read and shared...the one-man parades around the studio, accompanied by canned Sousa marches..."Ark in the Park", the trips to Lincoln Park Zoo ("Dr. Fisher's in the monkey house!")...the chalkboard with the sports scores (for the local pro teams, plus the Slippery Rock football team) and the weather forecast ("Today's Weather: Swell")...chasing Chelveston the Duck around the studio, before the low fence named "Rayner's Ranch" was erected...the humorously pathetic attempts at singing.
One of my proudest childhood moments was the time that Ray and Cuddly Dudley read a poem which my sister Marti and I wrote. I can only remember a few lines of it:
When old Ray Rayner starts to sing
We turn the volume way down low
Though Ray Rayner's nice
And cool as the ice
He sings just like good old Joe Schmoe.
He taught me so many lessons about life. Every kid is special. We all make mistakes. Laugh at yourself. Respect others. Wear your boots and galoshes. And--unintentionally but hilariously--nature cannot be tamed, as evidenced by his fruitless attempts to get Chelveston to swim in that ridicilous little plastic tub.
More often than not, sad news like this seems to arrive on days of foul weather or subzero temperatures. This was already a subzero week, and it just got a little bit colder.
So long, Ray.
A comic genius has left us. Art Carney was the perfect foil for the equally brilliant Jackie Gleason, with the two having unparalleled chemistry as performers. They also managed the rare feat of each being equally adept at being the comic and the straight man. "The Honeymooners" represents the very best of what television is capable of. Art Carney will be greatly missed.
"I love Ed Norton and what he did for my career," Mr. Carney once said. "But the truth is that we couldn't have been more different. Norton was the total extrovert, there was no way you could put down his infectious good humor. Me? I'm a loner and a worrier."